At CES, Licensing Stretches Brands in New Directions

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LAS VEGAS – Old brands were reinvented via licensing at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), either by returning to their roots or branching into new technologies and categories.

From Polaroid and Kodak highlighting their renewed push in the camera business – the former with funding partly supplied by a business that boasts 97 licensees – to Craig Electronics remaking itself under the Magnavox brand, companies unveiled plans for licensed brands with consumer cache. And Huawei, which struck out in a bid to have AT&T sell its branded phones, unveiled a Porsche-licensed version of its Mate 10 Pro smartphone that hits the global market at $1,200 (versus $799 for a similar non-Porsche brand model) on Feb. 18.

“You are seeing many of the consumer electronics brands still have resonance with consumers, and who actually makes the products doesn’t matter as much anymore,” says Craig Electronics’ Todd Richardson. For example, Craig is starting to limit its own brand to categories in which it doesn’t have a Magnavox license; the latter is focused on audio – speakers, headphones and accessories.

“Initially there was a cross-over” between the Craig and Magnavox brands but “as we move forward more items will come out under the Magnavox because there is much more awareness of it,” says Richardson.

That awareness can also be found in Polaroid and Kodak, both of whom struggled when digital photography replaced film. In the case of Polaroid, the money from its already broad licensing program is partly behind the company’s ability to revive its OneStep analog instant cameras that were highlighted under the Polaroid Originals banner at CES.

At the same, C&A Marketing — which has Polaroid and Kodak licenses for digital cameras — highlighted its Kodak Mini Shot 10-megapixel model that had the ability print photos as well.

With its renewed focus on its film-based heritage, Polaroid also is moving this year to focus licensing on cameras, TVs, and smartphones, moving away from categories such as batteries, cables, smart watches and fitness trackers, says Polaroid’s Jason Sutton. At the same time, the brand has built an apparel roster of 16 licensees and has a DTR set to launch with an unidentified 2,000-store global retailer in the spring, says Sutton. Polaroid licensee Makena Electronics also is readying 75- and 65-inch 4K LCD TVs for the U.S. and Canada.

Also at CES:

  • Home Security, once largely dominated by non-licensed brands, is getting a licensed tinge. Southern Telecom is taking a two-pronged approach, readying a broad range of products under both its recently acquired Packard Bell brand – motion sensors, security cameras, water sensors, Wi-Fi-equipped light bulbs – while at the same time putting its Sharper Image license on more select security items. Meanwhile, Voxx International, which launched RCA security cameras last fall, is following up with a kit featuring one- and two-terabyte digital video recorders that deliver high-definition footage. And Xtreme Cables unveiled an Energizer product line replete with an Energizer Connect app to operate a system of motion sensors and security cameras. “Consumers typically rely on Energizer for emergencies and the brand lends itself to security where it stands for the same values,” says Xtreme’s Gene Kelsey.
  • Hisense, which has been engaged with Sharp in a battle over trademark rights, is showing little sign of backing down. It showed a new line of Sharp models at CES, including 55-and 65-inch 4K sets that will carry the Sharp Aquos premium label. Hisense signed a five-year U.S. licensing agreement with Sharp in 2015, but Sharp has sought to end the deal in claiming Hisense violated its pact by selling poor quality TVs. Sharp sued Hisense in August. “Hisense is not backing down and is not giving up the licensing deal,” says a Hisense spokesman. “Hisense has been successful in terms of sales with Sharp and they are going to continue as the supplier.” Yet at the same time, Hisense moved to position its own brand as a premium to Aquos, at least in the case of the laser TV – a laser-based 4K front projector tied to a 100-inch screen – that launched last fall and was followed by 80- and 88-inch versions at CES. There are no plans for Sharp laser TVs, says the Hisense spokesman. Hisense also last fall acquired Toshiba’s TV business, but any new models under that brand aren’t likely until 2019, says the Hisense spokesman.
  • Licensed unlocked smartphones – those not tied to a cellular carrier – have made inroads globally, but not in the U.S., say industry executives.  The two major carriers – Verizon and AT&T – have so far shown little interest in unlocked models, largely because they want to sell phones connected to their respective networks. In international markets, Polaroid licensee One Diamond has made inroads in Latin America and South America, while Southern Telecom has sold a Polaroid model through Best Buy stores in Canada. RCA licensee Sonoma developed an exclusive line for Amazon that is sold in the U.S., including two new Android-based models introduced at CES. And while Bullitt Group has Caterpillar (CAT) licensed smartphones available through Best Buy (Inside Licensing Jan. 9), the market for unlocked phones in the U.S. remains small without Verizon or AT&T carrying the product.
  • Xtreme Cable’s licensed Barbasol foil, rotary and wet/dry shavers will launch at retail in the U.S. April 1, as the Perio-owned brand moves outside shaving cream for the first time. Xtreme also will be launching a women’s line under Perio’s Pure Silk brand that will include hair dryers, flat irons and other items in addition to shavers. The deal was brokered by Seltzer Licensing Group.


Bullitt Group, Dan Papalia, Chief Sales Officer, 779-833-6004,

Craig Electronics, Todd Richardson, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, 305-622-9505,

Hisense USA, Mark Viken, VP Marketing, 678-318-9060

Polaroid, Jason Sutton, VP Licensing, 952-250-4604,

Seltzer Licensing Group, Stuart Seltzer, 212-244-9548,

Southern Telecom, Jon Khalev, Brand Mgr., 718-567-7778 x206,

Technicolor, Candace Biafore, Trademark Licensing Sales and Marketing Mgr., 609-734-6834,

Xtreme Cables, Gene Kelsey, Chief Marketing Officer, 732-853-8740,